Regarding MP Jim Hillyer's defense of Bill C-45 and of the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA)

A shorter version was published in the Lethbridge Herald on Sunday, 2013-01-13.

Regarding MP Jim Hillyer's defence of Bill C-45 and of the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) (Herald, January 4):

Some people may take what Mr. Hillyer said as reassuring: "[N]othing in the Act in any way compromises federal, provincial or territorial environmental laws" which is essentially just a repeat of what Steven Fletcher, Minister of State for Transport, said in the House of Commons on October 22: “[The NWPA] has always been and remains about navigation and navigation only.” The act isn’t, and has never been, Fletcher asserted, about “environmental protection.” Mr. Hillyer and Steven Fletcher are wrong.

The NDP had asked Fletcher why Bill C-45 would mean tens of thousands of lakes and rivers will no longer be covered by the NWPA, leaving protection for just 97 lakes, 62 rivers and the three oceans. Strangely, the vast majority of protected bodies of water are in Conservative MPs' ridings, although not ones in the Lethbridge riding. Rivers on the route for the Northern Gateway? Not protected.

Mr. Hillyer seems to think it's okay to do away with protection under the NWPA, because other federal legislation "remains in force to protect the environment." He must think we're stupid. His government only last March gutted environmental protection--gone is protection for thousands of species of fish; now only fish that are of economic, cultural, or ecological value are protected. Google "protection for fish Harper" and see what you find. Further, only last spring, this government laid off nearly all (75) of the DFO scientists studying marine toxicology across Canada including nine marine biologists specializing in marine toxicology.

First Nations are rightly upset about the loss of environmental protection because they are the ones opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline, etc. The NWPA used to automatically require an environmental assessment and federal approval when a bridge, dam, OR PIPELINE, was proposed. No longer.

There's a direct local connection: The Oldman Dam controversy led to a Supreme Court decision in which Justice Gérard La Forest said, “Environmental impact assessment is, in its simplest form, a planning tool that is now generally regarded as an integral component of sound decision-making.” How things have changed.

Space limitations allow me to comment on only one item addressed by Mr. Hillyer. To learn about the other concerns of First Nations, Google “Harper government bills that sparked Idle No More”. Or go to the Files Folder on the Idle No More Official Website on Facebook.

Mark Sandilands

Rally against C-45 and other legislation

Today, I was asked to speak at a rally at Red Crow Park in Standoff, Alberta. I brought greetings and a message from MP Jean Crowder, the NDP Critic for Aboriginal Affairs.
Jean Crowder, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan and federal NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic.
Dear Members of the Kainai First Nation,
Greetings to your Elders, your Chief and Council and all of you gathered today. I am sorry I cannot be with you.
I have heard from many First Nations from right across this country who are dismayed at the changes announced in Bill C-45, the Budget Implementation Act.
For many First Nations who depend on the land, it is the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act that worry them the most.
Without that protection, plan to build dams, dredge waterways or build a dock do not automatically trigger a review on how it will affect the navigability of a lake or a river. Over time, that automatic trigger also provided environmental protection.
Now this Conservative government has decided that protection is only important for a handful of lakes and rivers – most of them in federal ridings held by Conservative MPs.
For a First Nation like yours, whose reserve is bounded by three rivers, it will mean more work to ensure that decisions made by the province or other private companies do not adversely affect your people or your territory.
Already First Nations like the Athabasca Chipewyan near the tar sands know how industrial development can affect downstream water quality. They have reported fish with strange growths on them and caribou meat that smells like oil.
There were other changes in Bill C-45 that affect First Nations directly – a change in the double majority needed to make a land designation on reserve. Previously, a majority of members on the reserve had to vote and a majority of the people voting had to vote in favour of a land designation for it to go through. The government has changed that to a simple majority under this legislation.
There can be no doubt that this change fundamentally affects the inherent rights of First Nations. So there should have been a formal consultation process before this legislation was introduced to ensure free, prior and informed consent. Sadly, there was no opportunity for First Nations to speak to this legislation.
On behalf of my Leader, Tom Mulcair, and the entire federal New Democrat caucus, I hope that this is a good day, that the other speakers share their good words with you today and that those words are heard by the government in Ottawa.
From: Jean Crowder, Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Cowichan and federal NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic. Nitsiniiyi’taki, thank-you. [nehd-seh-nee-yeh'dahgi ]

I might add my own thoughts:
In June of 2008 Stephen Harper apologized. In part, here is what he said, “on behalf of the government of Canada and all Canadians, I stand before you, in this chamber so central to our life as a country, to apologize to aboriginal peoples for Canada's role in the Indian residential schools system.”
And in the summer of 2011, on this very site, Harper was named an honorary Chief of the Kainais with the title of Chief Speaker.
Last April, Richard Wagamese from BC said: “[Mr. Harper], You said ‘sorry’ and you were not. In aboriginal context, an apology means that you recognize the flaw within yourself that made the offence possible and you offer reconciliation based on understanding the nature of that flaw. That reconciliation takes the form of living and behaving in the opposite manner. You have not done this. In fact, you have continued in the same vein that made the original apology necessary.”
Mr. Wagamese could add C-45 and a long list of other bills in the House and the Senate that attack a very way of life of the Kainai Nation. Consider this: A week ago, Canada had 2.5 million protected rivers and lakes; today we have 82 protected rivers and lakes.
It is probably without precedent, but it might be time to consider revoking the honorary title Mr. Harper received here in 2011.
At the very least, through democratic processes, let’s all work to revoke the title
Prime Minister from this man and this party.

Petty politics trumps doing the right thing


"The Herald" missed this story last week, but it's important for people to know about it.  One typical headline in another news outlet read, "Tories block bid to make cheaper medicines for poor nations" (Globe and Mail).  The background is that Bill C-398 came up for a vote in the House last week.  This bill aimed to correct several flaws in Canada's Access to Medicines Regime (CAMR) which dates back to 2004. CAMR was designed to allow generic drug manufacturers to make generic drugs used in the treatment of AIDS for shipment to impoverished nations.  However, CAMR is full of red tape and, since 2004, just two batches of one generic drug has been sent to only one country.

A similar bill passed the House of Commons in 2011, but didn't make it through the Senate before the May 2, 2011 election was called.  So this fall New Democrat MP Hélène Laverdière proposed a private members bill with the same intent and similar wording.  It came up for a vote last Wednesday (Nov. 28).  In 2011, 26 Conservatives supported its predecessor, but this time the Conservatives, with their false majority, let it be known that they opposed it.  Figuring out their reasons for opposing is difficult since their campaign against was full of misinformation. For example, they said the drug manufacturers were opposed.  Drub manufacturers stated publicly they weren't.  The Conservatives said the bill would put Canada in contravention of its obligations under WTO rules.  International legal experts say that is false.  There is some suspicion that the Conservatives' opposition is related to drug patent laws in trade agreements.  

In the end, seven Conservatives saw fit to vote for the bill, but it was defeated anyway (148 to 141);  none of these seven are from Southern Alberta.  

The Conservatives support for the largest corporations continues.

"It is so profoundly sad that they couldn't rise above petty politics," Ms. Laverdière said. "There are two types of people who are really losing this evening. First are the people we could have helped with the bill. And I think that the Conservatives have also shown that they were not able to rise above politics to do the right thing."

Mark Sandilands
President, Lethbridge Federal NDP Riding Association